Total Pacifism in Gundam Wing

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Total Pacifism in Gundam Wing

Post by Seraphic » Mon Dec 31, 2007 2:08 am

(Before I even start, just let me say that I am creating this topic at a late hour, so my thoughts may seem scattered or put together strangely. I simply felt the need to put this up before I get pre-empted by another topic. My replies should be more coherent if necessary. If I sound like I am being kind of a butt, then it's because I am tired, and I will apologize ahead of time. I appreciate your patience and interest.)

This is a subject that I've wanted to bring to light for a long while. I want to examine the role of total pacifism in Gundam Wing. Keep in mind, I am in no way arguing for or against that philosopy in my post, but you can feel free to discuss such things later on, since this would be the space to do it in. Just try not to get my topic closed down.

We would have to begin by saying what entailed total pacifism in Wing: that would be the philosophy that no sort of aggressive action should ever be resorted to when approaching a situation. This naturally leads to the idea that no party should be in the possession of weapons, since they are naturally useless in a setting where everyone solves problems through talk.

(At this point, someone will respond with "But that's stupid and it will never work." To that person, please shut up for a moment and withhold that idea until you finish hearing my points. Appreciated.)

For a while now, I find that many people scoff at Gundam Wing for appearing nonsensical or juvenile because of the mere mention of the idea of total pacifism. It's likely that we are looking at things the wrong way. Here is my key point:

Wing is a series that relies heavily on faith, ideals, and symbolism, and people just freak out at it because they are taking things far too literally.

Total pacifism may be a literal philosophy, but looking at how it is approached in Gundam Wing, it is really an ideal, a dream, or one's ultimate goal. True, a philosophy is a discipline that defines how one should behave, however, total pacifism is more like the ideal philosophy rather than the philosphy that will get us to where we want. It's the highest or purest path, as they would put it.

The only (and truly terrible) hitch to total pacifism is that it only works when absolutely everyone agrees to play by these rules. Even if the majority of the world agrees to partake the noble path, it just takes one slimeball (Romefellar) to disagree and then proceed to steamroll over everyone else.

If one would observe the politics of After Colony carefully, one would see that pacifism fails as a means repeatedly, but instead behaves as the symbolic goal of the entire world. And the characters aren't stupid either. They KNOW they're putting themselves at a disadvantage by following this philosophy. They've SEEN total pacifism become horribly crushed the first time the Sanc Kingdom fell. And so, one can see all of the soldiers say this: "I want to protect the ideal of total pacifism, but as a soldier I natually cannot follow the same ideal I am claiming to protect." This is supposed to be ironic, not idiotic. At least the characters here have the guts to admit that they are staining their hands. This is how purity plays a very important part in Gundam Wing. You can see the same parallel occur when the Gundam pilots are spoken of as symbols of purity. In the end, the only person with enough resolve to stick to this ideal is Relena Peacecraft.

So, if total pacifism is not a functional methodology, how does it work in After Colony? As an ideal, as a goal, as an object of one's faith, the idea of total pacifism is a uniting force for the people of the Earth Sphere. This happens first when Relena raises the Sanc Kingdom from the ground, and then people who believe in her ideals begin to gather around her, and this includes soldiers. Once these people are gathered together, they decide that they will do all they can to protect what they cherish there, and yes, that means abandoning that same idea. This is what Noin does in the Sanc Kingdom. She's painfully aware of how the Sanc Kingdom was trampled the last time, so she decides to put herself aside to protect the country. With her countrymen united by their ideals, they all assist Noin in fighting off Sanc's assailants.

The next great achievement of total pacifism is when the World Nation was formed, this means all the countries on Earth all agreed to follow the same philosphy. This only occured when Relena acted as the symbolic figurehead of Romefellar. Notice, once the entire earth is united, Treize promply knocks her aside and says "Now that we're all united, we need to combine our efforts in defending ourselves against the threat of White Fang." Treize is fully aware that the idea of total pacifism has the power to unite people, and once it fulfills that purpose, other means must be used in order to maintain that unity.

Now, what happens after this simply astounds me. All the governments of the entire Earth Sphere lose their taste for fighting and agree to the idea of total pacifism. I know this is virtually impossible realistically, but you have to take serious the drastic measures that were taken. In the end, I can't help but think, "holy ZOINKS, they pulled it off!" It makes me proud in a strange way.

This counter between ideals and methodology is set in stone in Endless Waltz. Relena knows that the Earth Sphere has united under the idea of total pacifism, but is also made aware that their ways naturally takes power out of the hands of the government and people. (By god, it's the most humble government I've ever witnessed.) With a powerless government, someone decided to disagree and made weapons, and so, naturally, no one really has the capability (or really the want) to fight back. But because the people are already united, Relena literally says that the people do not need "a principle or an assertion" (total pacifism) but need a commitment to defend what is precious to them. That means getting your hands dirting and fighting back.

I guess what I'm trying to get at is that in After Colony, total pacifism is a philosophy that only exists and functions under very fragile circumstances, but otherwise, it's main function is as a symbolic ideal that works as a uniting force for the people.
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Post by Bord » Mon Dec 31, 2007 2:25 am

Wow, a lot of thoughts poured out on this matter. You guys have to understand that the After Colony universe is MUCH more deeper than most of us think it is. It's one of the more intellectually refined series out there, and along with the other AU shows, it's a refreshing interpretation on a Gundam series. No more biosensor-ghosts, crazy cyber-newtype women who scream "how dare you insult me, die!" or monsters of the week here. :) Wing sure is full of talk, but a closer look at it shows that we should strive for perfection even if nobody can become perfect.

The same goes for total pacifism. It's an idea that aims for the eradication of violence, but as the Endless Waltz prologue puts it "as long as there is mankind, there will always be wars". They may have destroyed all the MS but conflict will always be there. In the end, nobody was able to accomplish this Total Pacifism thing, not even Relena.

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Post by Mwulf » Mon Dec 31, 2007 6:16 am

Er... intellectually refined?

You said it yourself, Seraphic. Total Pacifism is an "ideal" philosphy--and utterly impossible. That's precisely why the concept gets treated with disdain--and not just within the context of Wing, but in the broader context of political theory.

It simply does not work, so it's hard to take characters that insist it can work seriously. Then again, much of what happened in Wing defied human nature.

EDIT: @Bord:
That's how the prologue goes, and, indeed, a lot of the stuff spouted by Marimeia's army & the narration, was actually coherent and workable philosophy... but it ended with that godawful idea that a small population of people in a single area could somehow annihilate war forever by standing up and fighting for themselves.

I still don't quite follow how that was supposed to play out logically...
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Post by Black Knight » Mon Dec 31, 2007 7:40 am

Nice look at the way Wing uses Total Pacifism, Seraphic.

Treize and Zechs were indeed quite aware of the hypocrisy of their actions, as was Noin (who explicitly mentioned it more than once). Note, too, that when Treize deposed Relena as leader of the World Nation, he said something along the lines of "this isn't your part to play (yet)". Both Treize and Zechs did their best to keep Relena's "purity" for Total Pacifism unblemished, and so took on the dirty work themselves.
Mwulf wrote:You said it yourself, Seraphic. Total Pacifism is an "ideal" philosphy--and utterly impossible. That's precisely why the concept gets treated with disdain--and not just within the context of Wing, but in the broader context of political theory.

It simply does not work, so it's hard to take characters that insist it can work seriously. Then again, much of what happened in Wing defied human nature.
Iceland has existed as a nation for about a thousand years, and never had a military with which to protect it. Curiously, it has never been invaded. It would seem, then, that Total Pacifism works for them.

Naturally, this is a very skewed example; Iceland is a homogeneous, isolated nation with nothing in the way of natural resources any other nations want. But it does prove that Total Pacifism can work...as Seraphic said, in very fragile, limited circumstances.

One could make the argument that Post-WWII Japan also lives by the idea of Total Pacifism, as even though they have armed forces, they refuse to use them, even to protect their own nationals & merchant shipping overseas.

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Post by Recon 5 » Mon Dec 31, 2007 7:58 am

If either of the Great Wars had gone on long enough Iceland would have fallen to a belligerent who simply had nothing else to conquer...

And, yeah. Fragile circumstances.

But seriously, I believe that Wing was actually trying to deconstruct the notion of a total pacifism as opposed to supporting it. That was clear the moment Relena decided to just give up her kingdom as opposed to going down fighting.

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Post by Gadget » Mon Dec 31, 2007 8:18 am

It really, really sounds like how the United Nations was form after the failure of the League of Nations to stop WW2.

To Black Knight.
Japan need some very advance armed forces as a defense measures against Godzilla. Now where did they hid the Masers cannon. :roll:
Ok. Japan realies on it's allies, esp USA to defend it's soil and shipping lane. But US allows Japan to armed itself as a 'self defense' force. This is 'Cold War' thinking as Japan is a buffer to the USSR, China and N Koera.

So for Relena's pacifism is 'roll over and die'? It almost work. But reality sets in.

I'll stick with Ultra Magus motto. Prepare for War, strive for peace.

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Post by Kavik Ryx » Mon Dec 31, 2007 12:36 pm

Well I must admit, for once total pacifism makes a bit more sense; however, in the end it's just a naive sentiment, and naive sentiments never mix well with politics. Often, they require leaps of faith and obedience in order to function, and in the end not everyone will agree, that's just a fact of political tension. Human nature promotes conflict, it's a fact that just cannot be ignored.

This brings me to my second point, pacifism does not end war. A little thing I wrote for a story was war breeds war but peace brings about peace. While the purpose of this statement is an endorsement for pacifism, there is a second point which arises. War does not arise from peace, and peace is certainly not the result of war. Throughout the series pacifism is addressed to death, though the very notion of war is ignored. It was almost as if the idea was that if we disregard our need to fight, people will live in harmony. However, this does not solve the whole issue of war. I'm sad to say but this is what Wu Fei addressed in EW, the war is over but it doesn't mean anything. You cannot solve conflicts by saying how much you want peace, you need to discuss the whole reason you have gone to war, if not the issue is not being solved and total pacifism just becomes a bandaid for a deep social issue.

Here is my next point, that pacifism does not work like that. The Romafeller foundation relied on the war for funding and used the funding to maintain their power, which they kept by inciting war, an Endless Waltz. The real issue at hand is not that they ignore peace, rather that they want war, and they have good reason, at least in their mindset for wanting war. If someone is trying to force unwanted values down you're throat, the natural response of human dignity is to stand up and openly oppose. Granted this can be done in peaceful ways like what Ghandi did, but all Relena said was pacifism. In this case, not fighting doesn't solve anything as Romafeller continued to tread on the world. Heck even protesting, boycotting, debating, and marching is war, just one of a non aggressive nature. While this will work, just stating pacifism is not this instead it is simply a prayer.

Pardon some use of religious context in the point that's coming up. Lastly I would like to give couple of quotes. "Prayer cannot water an arid field or mend a broken bridge, but it can water an arid soul and mend a broken heart." A prayer can mean strength, but in the end, it alone will not save the world. And to end all of this, a quick dialog from Evangelion. Though it's a little choppy so I apologize

Rei: We are the hope, that one day people will understand each other.

Kawaru: And we are the words, I love you

Shinji: But that's just a pretense, a selfish belief, like a prayer. It can't possibly last forever, one day people will abandon me, but I want to to return their, because at least I knew my feelings were real

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Post by Celestial Gundam » Sat Jan 12, 2008 10:17 am

I'm glad to see that someone sees things about Wing the same way that I do. Kudos for putting so much thought into this topic!
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Post by Armetius » Thu Jan 17, 2008 9:21 pm

To the op: the problem that people have with Wing is not that they can't understand the symbols, it's that some of these symbols get in the way of storytelling, especially in the character department. Using total pacifism as a symbol keeps the characters from having varying motivations and outlooks, which often leads to dry character interaction.

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Post by Kavik Ryx » Thu Jan 17, 2008 9:29 pm

Amen to that. Though the major issue is also that it is obtrusive symbolism that prevents other ideals and symbols from being explored. Not to say the total pacifism is a bad theme or concept, but it was used so much as a hindrance/crutch that it lost all of its meaning. Now that would have been an interesting story, though that's another discussion.

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Post by Armetius » Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:27 am

Kavik Ryx wrote:Amen to that. Though the major issue is also that it is obtrusive symbolism that prevents other ideals and symbols from being explored. Not to say the total pacifism is a bad theme or concept, but it was used so much as a hindrance/crutch that it lost all of its meaning. Now that would have been an interesting story, though that's another discussion.
It also kept some ethical issues from being addressed, such as the fact that Hiro was brainwashed to be a killer at the age of fourteen.

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Post by AmuroNT1 » Fri Jan 18, 2008 1:42 am

Armetius wrote:It also kept some ethical issues from being addressed, such as the fact that Hiro was brainwashed to be a killer at the age of fourteen.
Except that...you know...he wasn't. Otherwise he wouldn't have avoided killing people.
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Post by G-Slayer » Sat Jan 19, 2008 12:19 am

Armetius wrote:
It also kept some ethical issues from being addressed, such as the fact that Hiro was brainwashed to be a killer at the age of fourteen.


Except that...you know...he wasn't. Otherwise he wouldn't have avoided killing people.
Amuro's right, you know. Rewatching the Wing series on DVD, I've discovered that Heero never delivers on his death threats. He said he'd kill Relena, he said he'd kill Duo, he said he'd kill the five Gundam engineers . . .

I haven't reached the second half of the show yet, so I can't say much that contributes to the topic except that I think the poor reception of the pacifism concept is probably due to a widespread misunderstanding of what pacifism is. I also think that overexposure of the subject is a big factor.
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Post by AmuroNT1 » Sat Jan 19, 2008 1:23 am

Actually, the notion that Heero was brainwashed at any point is ridiculous. If you'll recall the segment where he and Trowa are hanging out before the Antarctica duel, Trowa comments (with an obvious degree of envy) that Heero is in complete control of himself at all times, and never shows a single sign of doubt as to what he does or what he's planning. Hardly something you'd say about someone who's being brainwashed, wouldn't you say?
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Post by Seraphic » Sat Jan 19, 2008 2:35 am

Alright, so Wing doesn't have the richest character development. Talk of Heero Yuy elsewhere, if you will, or at least tie him into this discussion properly.

Kavik: I wanted to address the first post you made in the topic. You argued that pacifism was opposed to war, but went on to describe war as open and organized opposition. Pacifism here is not opposed to conflict really, but is specifically geared against Violence. The point here is that people do not harm each other in order to achieve goals. You can still fight and win wars without hurting people. Think of Gandhi.

Yeah, I'm just sorry that a war fought with patience isn't quite as entertaining as a leo being cleaved in two.

(Right, and I wasn't worried so much about people not understanding the symbolism as I was worried about them appreciating it.) =p

EDIT: Blah, forgot something. Kavik, remember how you mentioned war was never properly addressed in GW? That never happened because what was constantly being addressed was Battle and the "Beauty of Combat." Again, this is looking at violence itself rather than the act of war. What we are contrasting is the violence in human nature and the ability to transcend that in the practice of pacifism. In the end though, both can be viewed as both noble and beautiful. I tend to agree with both, but I can be a confusing person.
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Post by Kavik Ryx » Sat Jan 19, 2008 8:00 pm

Transcending from war to peace, on its own, a good idea; however, war and peace are not necessarily opposites, as can be described by Romafeller. Their problem wasn't that they were ignoring peace, it was that they wished for war. It's kinda like a Dennis Leary comedy routine about cigarettes. He brings up this guy who wants the warning labels on cigarette packs to be bigger. He then goes on how the problem is not that no one knows about these warnings, its that he likes to smoke. It's really funny, but that's a different discussion.

The point is that in the end, total pacifism is not the solution for war considering groups like Romafeller, and it is still beyond me how they copped out to Relena in the end. That was a moment that didn't make any sense.

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Post by Armetius » Mon Jan 21, 2008 4:19 am

You can still fight and win wars without hurting people. Think of Gandhi.
Gandhi's strategy does work in a situation where you're trying to overthrow an enemy that isn't already attacking you (and probably the most ethical strategy), but it there are some situations where that doesn't work.

Let's say you're living in a village in Europe in around the year 500 A.D. One day a small army of brigands decides to raid your village, kill the men, rape the women and steal your food. If you tried passive resistance here, you'd more than likely just wind up with your head chopped off. In this case the only thing you can do is fight back.

I believe Endless Waltz addresses this with a somewhat similar situation, the invasion of the Maremea Army. The war in this case wasn't stopped until Dekim was shot to death.

PS: It would have been interesting to see the colonists try passive resistence in Wing (or for that matter, see the AEUG use it in Zeta), since they were in a position where it could have worked.

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Post by Kuruni » Mon Jan 21, 2008 5:26 am

IIRC, there were other freedom fighters when Gandhi use passive resistance. It's Gandhi whose become more famous, but without those fighters, who known if English won't lets him starved to death?
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Post by Seraphic » Sun Jan 27, 2008 1:13 am

You guys are making some good points, but I think Artemis may have missed out on a point established earlier. It's clear already that a policy of pacifism in war only works properly if all the players agree to it. If there's anyone who decides to use violent means instead, they pretty much automatically win becase everyone who decided to play nice is dead.

What you describe there, Artemis, is a massacre, not a war, or even a sanctioned* battle. Of course pacifism would not work in that capacity, especially if the marauders don't care enough to sit and talk with you.

Yes, your point in your example is valid, but I do not agree that it parallels with the events in Endless Waltz very well. You see, the Mariemaia Army was an occupation force in Brussels. They weren't raping and pillaging the town were they? They pretty much just landed their Serpents and seated themselves inside the bunker. And even though Mariemaia physically did very little, ESUN's lack of any military power pretty much caused it to lose control as the government by a fault.

And if you notice, even though the shift of the goverment went into Mariemaia's hands, the people in Brussels were all pretty much unaffected. (This point makes me laugh to myself, because it's exactly how I think about our modern day politics.) No matter what government is in control, the citizens living under the government remain the same, and if they prevail, their beliefs are likely to outlast the government. All the citizenry of Brussels did was begin to gather in the streets, and simply that caused all of those noobish Serpent pilots to crap their pants. And what would they have done? Begin to stamp on the people under the heels of their mobile suits? I don't think they have the balls.

I think Mariemaia would have lost even if Dekim were not assassinated. What power would he have if no one listened to him? All of the soldiers under him sympathized with the people.

About Rommefellar: I haven't thought too deeply here, so I may be missing some points. We know that Rommefellar is composed of aristocrats, political leaders, probably some military industrial leaders, and people of noble blood. It exists as a body of people who hold tremendous power in the world, and what they basically do push around their political views and incite battles to gain military wealth. This is the role we observed on the surface at least.

Even though Rommefellar's activity is rather detestable, there were likely many political leaders and noblemen that disagreed and were waiting for an opportunity to change the organization. Simply from Relena's interaction with Rommefellar, we see that there are members that sympathize greatly with the Sanc Kingdom due to former ties. Once Relena stepped up as the figurehead of Rommefellar, those people who were waiting were able to rise up and speak their views, and she was also able to persuade the large majority to agree to her views on pacifism. She must have amazing persuasive powers, but I really wish that was demonstrated in the show a little better.
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Post by Kavik Ryx » Sun Jan 27, 2008 1:27 am

I still highly doubt that most of the Romafeller Foundation would have disagreed so greatly with Duke Dermail's policies. If they did, they would have sided with Treize when he severed ties between Romafeller and Oz.

Also, where pacifism in Wing truly breaks down is the White Fang. I can understand them being a rebel group. But destroying Earth in for the sake of total pacifism? Doing that to end the chaos caused by Earth would make sense. But a massacre of billions in the name of peace is an unjustifiable action no matter how you look at it.

What really bugs me is that when Relena declared the World Nation, she obviously stated the end of militarism on Earth. If the White Fang truly believed in pacifism, this would have been a good time to convene negotiations to secure peace with Earth.

In the end, pacifism became an empty word, but the assumption the series tried to create was that everyone wanted peace. I just feels terribly inconsistant.

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